Videos I’d Like to See

Earlier this summer, the Google Chrome team produced a video where they went around asking regular citizens what a browser was. Turns out that about eight percent of the people know the answer, while the rest have no idea.

Cue mockery, laughter, sadness, feigned outrage, and even the occasional reasonable response.

I’ve never liked Jay Leno-style man-on-the-street video interviews; it’s easy to make regular people with no TV experience look bad. But one thing is clear: this video has legs, and the “8 percent” figure will probably be cited in blogs and articles and conferences for years to come. If this ends up driving home the point that hectoring ordinary people to “get a better browser” is a waste of time, then it’s hard to argue with the overall merit of the project. Remember kids: users do not change their defaults. That’s why it’s all about the Benjamins distribution deals.

Here is the video I would like to see. The scene: a succession of sleek Silicon Valley or NYC webdev offices filled (in no particular order) with beanbags, contemporary art, and twentysomethings with messenger bags. The questions:

  1. Why do we have seasons?
  2. Why is the sky blue?

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m cheating a little on Question #1, since I’ve already seen the famous 90s era video of new Harvard graduates flubbing that question. Unfortunately I can’t find that clip on YouTube or any other major video sites. Chalk this one up to the Vast Harvard Conspiracy (Truth Suppression Division).

As for Question #2, I only have my instinct to go on, but I suspect the results would be equally dismal. Note that we’re looking for layman-friendly answers here. References to Rayleigh scattering are admired but not required.

7 thoughts on “Videos I’d Like to See

  1. On second thought, this career might not be such a good idea. What if the Webdev Mafia makes the whole thing “disappear”, just like the Harvard folks did?

  2. The good news is that asking in that demographic is going to give you hardly anyone saying, “because God mad it that way and we shouldn’t try to figure anything out beyond that.”

  3. Probably not. I think you’d end up hearing things like “Ummm… because the Sun gets closer to the Earth?” — which I don’t consider to be a great improvement.

  4. I’m not clear what the folks who made the video thought its point was — as you say, it’s definitely something that might be worth showing to the guys building browsers, to get across to them, “The general public is not going to understand your wizbang customization options, so make it work right in the default mode.”

    For the majority of people, one can pretty safely analogize:
    browser : user :: water : fish

    If they’re also trying to say, “The vast majority of people don’t know what browsers are, so there isn’t any fair competition between the behemoth (IE) and our 1337 creation!” then, um, that seems kinda whiny. And possibly patronizing. “Stupid customers don’t even know what’s good for them.”

  5. I’m 99% sure the Chrome engineering team understands this phenomenon as first point you mentioned, rather than the second. We’re talking about real engineers here, not Digg and Reddit commenters. :)

    And beyond that, if *any* company understands how to play in a space where the defaults are already set, it’s Google. (You may ask yourself, “Why didn’t Microsoft Live Search ever reach 60, 70, 80% search engine market share?” Hint: it’s not because users know how to change their preferences.) There’s no chance the Chrome team is sitting around complaining about unfairness; they’re too busy getting their bizdev people on the phone with Dell, HP, Adobe, …

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